NIOSH Fact Sheet: Older Drivers in the Workplace

niosh 3The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has issued a fact sheet giving employers and workers information on age-related physical and mental changes that may affect older workers’ driving.

Between 1994 and 2014, employment of older workers (65 years and older) increased by 117%, and this trend is expected to continue (BLS). By 2020, it is estimated that 30% of Americans and 25% of all workers will be 55 years and older, and 40 million licensed drivers will be 65 years and older.

Older drivers at work bring extensive skills, knowledge, and experience built over the course of a lifespan. Research shows that older drivers are more likely than their younger counterparts to adopt safe behaviors such as wearing a seat belt and complying with speed limits.

However, those age 55 and older have twice the risk of dying in a work-related crash than younger workers do. One possible reason is that older persons are more likely to be injured if they are in a crash, and more likely to die if they are injured.

According to the latest NIOSH Science Blog, employers can use the expertise of older workers’ “crystalized” intelligence — their extensive bank of skills, knowledge, and experience accumulated over the course of the lifespan.

This accumulated knowledge is a valuable resource that can be leveraged in the form of mentoring programs that could help create and maintain an organizational safety climate that benefits workers of all ages. Older drivers can transfer the knowledge they have accumulated about driving safely in different types of weather, roads, and traffic patterns to less-experienced drivers.

It is important to accommodate these changes so older workers may continue to contribute their expertise to the workplace under the safest conditions possible.